Various faiths exist in our world. Until now I have wandered the villages of this country, investigating the unique beliefs of each region, all covering many different subjects. Of these, the one that most grabbed my attention was that of a village in which a large pedestal, known as the "Gate to Hell", is revered as an object of worship. Rather than decorating the plaza in the centre of the village with specific symbols such as gods or Buddha, this village, situated in a small ravine in Hokuriku, had the very "gate" itself, a pedestal surrounded by shimenawa. It is said that when the Gate to Hell opens the world of the dead and the world of the living are joined together, bringing about a catastrophe. In order to avoid this disaster, believers in the Gate to Hell are said to perform a variety of ceremonies, and that these require a sacrifice, whether this be in the form of cattle, dolls, or even actual humans... Normally, religions are practiced in order to attain happiness, or peace after death, but in the case of the Hell Gate religion it is perhaps more appropriate to express it as a constant watch over the gate, to protect themselves from the terror that spills forth.
In all regions, these kinds of beliefs are detested by the neighbouring people. No one will tell me anything much about them, and I have yet to come across a single book detailing these catastrophe-averting ceremonies in any particular detail. I would like to enter the village firsthand on the day of a ceremony just once, but these villages have an extreme hatred of outsiders. As long as I am without an intermediary, I suspect that any kind of investigation will be impossible. What exactly is the "Gate to Hell"? How is this world joined to the other, and what happens when they become connected...? I want to learn more about this Gate to Hell.
As if my wish had been granted, I received the chance to enter the village of the believers in the Hell Gate from a surprising place. Ryozo Munakata, the student working as my assistant, coincidentally told me about a village with something that sounds like the Gate to Hell. It does not seem, after all, as though anyone will talk about about the details of the ritual in which twins are made into shrine maidens. This must be what I was seeking. The place appears to be nowhere near the villages I have visited in the past, but I find it deeply intriguing that a similar belief in the Gate to Hell could also exist in such a distant location. Perhaps they are somehow related - maybe by blood. Or perhaps this kind of custom once existed nationwide? This aroused further curiosity within me. In an amazing twist of convenience, Munakata told me that he had received a letter from a childhood friend who lives in the village, asking him to go there at the time of the ceremony. Naturally, I persuaded Munakata, who was troubled by his lack of funds, to let me accompany him to the village. Such opportunities are a true rarity, after all.
This time, I have the chance to take a step closer towards the Gate to Hell. As I have chosen to dedicate my life to its study, nothing could bring me greater joy.